If a single Philadelphia fan boos Donovan McNabb Thursday when the Eagles retire his number at halftime, the offender ought to lose his or her ticket privileges for life.
Some knuckleheads are going to be tempted to vent their frustrations at McNabb when he walks onto the field, but they need to show restraint. More than that, they need to show some class. Forget about McNabb’s status as the franchise’s most productive and winningest quarterback. More on that later. If Eagles fans boo No. 5, they will be doing exactly what the rest of the country expects them to do. That behavior will inspire a return to the hackneyed list of Philadelphia fan transgressions and encourage those who love to bash the city to continue their piling on.
So, before you boo, think. And understand that McNabb deserves to have his number retired and be placed in the team’s Hall of Fame. No matter how frustrating he was at times with his offbeat comments and passes that landed at the feet of some receivers, he was the best this town ever saw for a prolonged period at the quarterback position. That is indisputable.
McNabb faced a tough road in this town from the jump, for a couple reasons. The first was the pride a certain New England native took from whipping fans and politicians into a frenzy over the supposed mistake the franchise made by selecting McNabb in the first place. Once the die was cast, and the Eagles chose McNabb over Rasta Williams, Akili Smith and some other ill-prepared QBs, said radio personality couldn’t have possibly given McNabb an honest chance, because admitting he was a good QB would have been admitting error. So, for 11 years, McNabb’s inadequacies were highlighted in certain circles, and that drove some fans into an anti-Five furor.
McNabb also faced a tough road because of his skin color. Some Eagles fans weren’t going to accept him, no matter what he did. That’s the way it still goes here, and that’s too bad. As if that weren’t bad enough, after McNabb left Philadelphia, he had to suffer the indignation of boxer Bernard Hopkins’ insults and insinuations that he wasn’t black enough. Check me if I’m wrong, Mr. Executioner, but a black man—or any man, for that matter—with a college degree, a spot on a major university’s board of trustees and a devotion to his family does not seem deserving of ridicule.
There is no question McNabb had his moments that led even his staunchest supporters to wonder. He should have developed a thicker skin about how the media treated him. He should have told his parents to be quiet. He should have curbed his propensity for goofy behavior. And, yes, he should have known the overtime rules. But that was all the surrounding noise that shouldn’t for a minute have diverted attention from his many accomplishments.
During his 11 years with the Eagles, McNabb set franchise records for pass completions and attempts, passing yards and touchdowns. He won 100 games with the team, nine of them coming during the post-season. He provided stability and big production in the most important position in football and perhaps in all of American team sports. From his arrival in 1999, through his dismissal after the 2009 season, McNabb was a steady presence under center who played in six Pro Bowls and topped 3,000 passing yards seven times. The Eagles won five division titles with him at the offensive helm. If that body of work isn’t worthy of your cheers Thursday night, then you might want to sign up for the Football 101 programs the Eagles run each year that introduces the sport to the uninitiated.
There can be no denying the disappointment fans felt throughout the first decade of this millennium as the Birds failed to reach the ultimate team goal. McNabb was part of that, but so were Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins and a host of other players. Blaming the lack of a Super Bowl title on McNabb is myopic and demonstrates a profound lack of football knowledge. Yes, the QB is a vital position. The other 21 spots on the starting offense and defense are pretty important, too. And McNabb’s lack of a Super Bowl puts him in the same class with Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen and Fran Tarkenton, Pro Football Hall of Famers all.
If you will be at the game Thursday night, stand and cheer enthusiastically for McNabb. Show your football knowledge and passion for the Eagles by applauding one of their best. You’ll be doing the right thing by him and for the city, by proving that we’re not the type of people who pelt Santa with snowballs or boo one of our team’s all-time greats.
Stay classy, Philadelphia.
• Yep, the Eagles left a lot of points on the field in Sunday’s loss to San Diego, but so did the Chargers. The game was entertaining but ultimately unfulfilling. It’s too late to add any significant components to a defense that offered token resistance, so maybe Chip Kelly has to consider doing a few things on the other side of the ball to protect the beleaguered unit, like holding onto the ball longer than a third of the game. When a borderline playoff contender like the Chargers can light you up, imagine what real competition can do. If shootouts make you happy, get ready for a fun year. If wins are your preference, you had better hope the defense can find a way to be reasonably successful.
• The loss was the main story, but Michael Vick’s second consecutive outstanding effort was close behind. In addition to being accurate throwing the ball, he has avoided the awful decisions that torpedoed his play last year. Vick is working within the offense and distributing the ball to the right person practically every time. It’s a darn good thing, because with the Eagles’ defense so vulnerable, turnovers by Vick would be crushing.
• Losing to Notre Dame was no sin. Even a loss to Houston could be excused. But dropping a home decision to Fordham is a low point for Temple, which is 0-3 and struggling to find something positive from its poor start. It’s way too early to indict Matt Rhule for the disaster at the Linc on Saturday, but the Owls’ struggles show just how much Al Golden meant to the program and how hard it is to build a consistent gridiron winner on North Broad Street.